Around the Blue Ridge Mountains in 60 Minutes

Around the Blue Ridge Mountains in 60 Minutes

Jules Verne was the first to romanticize the idea of traveling around the world in a hot air balloon with his 1863 novel Five Weeks In A Balloon. However, the first hot air balloon trip around the world didn't actually happen until 1999 when Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones took off in the Swiss Alps and circled back to the Egyptian desert. While a hot air balloon flight around the world may be a bucket list item for the ultra-hardcore adventure traveler, a 60-minute trip around the mountains can be an equally wondrous but much more realistic undertaking. If you're wondering whether or not you should take the plunge, here's what you can expect to experience on your first hot air balloon ride.

How Hot Air Balloons Fly

Have you ever wondered how hot air balloons fly? Hot air balloons use a clever combination of mechanics and thermodynamics. After the basket is attached with cords to the colorful envelope, a propane burner fires hot air directly inside it until the balloon inflates. Because of the difference in density between hot and cold air, hot air will always rise. As a result, a balloon filled with hot air will achieve buoyancy, sending it floating upward into the sky. When the pilot wishes to fly higher, they simply turn on the burner to heat more hot air. When they want to descend, they keep the burner off and pull a cord connected to the top of the envelope, where a parachute valve opens up to release hot air.

How to Prepare

Mountainous regions tend to have a thinner atmosphere, which means the changes in temperature throughout the day can be more drastic than what you may be used to. Because most hot air balloon flights are in the morning, you should wear layers of clothing that will keep you warm during the early hours and can be stripped off as it gets hotter. It's a good idea to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows you to climb easily into and out of the basket. You may also want to wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes from the bright morning sun. Don't forget to bring your smartphone or camera so that you can take plenty of stunning photos of the scenery and your party.

What to Expect

After the pilot and crew drive you out to the launch site, you'll get to watch and learn how a hot air balloon is inflated. First, the envelope is spread out over the lawn and attached to the basket. The parachute valve is installed while several large electric fans are used to open the envelope. You may even get a chance to manually hold open the envelope! Once the envelope opening is wide enough, the pilot will turn on the burner, and the balloon will gradually inflate. When the balloon is vertical and all the safety precautions are met, the pilot will invite you and your party aboard the basket.

As the hot air balloon rises, you'll watch the tops of trees fall steadily away and look in awe upon the graceful rolling texture of the mountains. You'll be able to see for miles all around, look down into valleys and take photos of the beautiful forests and rivers. Hot air balloons will follow the current of the winds until the pilot starts the descent.

If there are minimal winds, the landing will be as simple as the basket gently touching the ground as the pilot carefully measures how much hot air to vent. In higher winds, you may be directed to squat down sideways in the basket until the balloon lands horizontally to the ground. The pilot will let you know when it is safe to exit the basket, and then you'll be free to pursue post-flight activities and refreshments.

Flying the Blue Ridge Mountains

Perhaps flying around the world in 60 minutes will only become possible in the year 3000. However, flying around the mountains in 60 minutes has been a realistic endeavor since hot air balloons were invented in the late 1700s! You won't find a more whimsical way to witness incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina than from a 2,000-foot vantage point with Asheville Hot Air Balloons.

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